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This same word is translated "defile" (Mark 7: 2) and "unclean" (Rom. 14: 14) in
the sense meant by Peter:
"I have not eaten anything that is common" (Acts 10: 14).
"I should call no man common" (Acts 10: 28).
No one would dream of saying that these words uttered of Cornelius in Acts 10: 28 put
the Gentile upon absolute equality with the Jew, for the very idea is a contradiction of
what is actually taught in the Acts and in the epistles of the period. Reconciliation,
however, had brought the Gentile nigh, and so this word "common" is found in
Romans 15: 27.
In Rom. 11: 17 the word is sugkoinonos "fellow partaker":
"And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert
grafted in among them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree."
This in no way destroys the pre-eminence that Rom. 1: 16 or Rom. 9: 3-5 grant to
Israel; it must be kept within the confines of the symbol, that of a graft into a stock.
Whether the graft be that of a wild olive, a true olive, a rose or an apple, graft and natural
branch must jointly partake of the root and its supply, otherwise the branch would die.
Where Paul uses the figure of the olive tree he is consistent and uses "joint-partaker".
Where he speaks in plain terms without a figure he modifies the word to "partaker", and
as Rom. 15: 27 was written after Rom. 11: 17, we must accept the modification as
intentional and as being necessitated by the fact that the Gentiles were not strictly
speaking "joint-partakers" with Israel.
Coming now to Eph. 3: 6, we find that the word translated "partakers" is
summetochos, a word occurring nowhere else in the N.T. but in Eph. 5: 7. Metochos is
found once in Luke and five times in Hebrews, and metoche occurs but once, namely in
II Cor. 6: 14. Paul therefore had the lesser word to use if it had suited his purpose. We
are constrained therefore to recognize in Eph. 3: 6 in the threefold use of sun, a unique
relationship among the members of the Body, and while confessing that there is much to
be desired in such a clumsy translation, the limits of our vocabulary will not allow us to
translate these three words into a better English equivalent than,
"Joint-heirs, a joint-body and joint-partakers."
CHARLES H. WELCH